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Boys' Basketball rallies X 3; wins championship

Boys' Basketball rallies X 3; wins championship

Down seven in its playoff opener? No problem.

Down 10 on the road against the undefeated top seed? No problem.

Down 17 in the championship? No problem.

The Wilbraham & Monson Academy Boys’ Basketball team trailed in each game of its New England Prep School Athletic Council Class AA Tournament, and each time Coach Mike Mannix and his seasoned Titans rallied to victory.

WMA claimed its first Boys’ Basketball title since 1986 when the team beat Worcester Academy 86-81 at Western New England University March 8, and its first since the mighty Class AA was formed in the Spring of 2010.

The Titans beat #5 Kimball Union Academy 72-66 at home March 4 before stunning top-seeded Cushing Academy 70-61 in overtime March 7. In the final, the Academy trailed by 17 in the first half before a 25-5 run gave the Titans the lead in the final frame.

Kyle Filipowski ’22, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime against Cushing, led WMA in the final with 32 points en route to being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

WMA finished the season 18-12 overall and 12-6 in Class AA, including a remarkable 9-4 mark against tournament teams.

Quotes

Coach Mannix on the team’s ability to rally from behind: “When there was a big game, we were ready. Whenever there was a tough moment, we were Team Bounce-back. We lost a couple games to teams that didn’t make the playoffs. They were tough losses, but we bounced back. Losing in double-overtime at the buzzer, and then we come back and beat a team that was undefeated in AA. The team always bounced back, and it was the spirit of the kids.”

Coach Mannix on winning at #1 Cushing: “When we drew the four seed, and then we beat Kimball Union and were going to Cushing, I never saw any worry. Teams can say what they want, but when a four or five goes on the road to play an undefeated one, there might be something deep inside that goes, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be a tall task.’ I never saw it. Down six at halftime, it was a game no one could make a shot. Going deeper we were down 10. We came back, but going back down again after the comeback, and we found ourselves down three with 10 seconds left. We needed a couple things to go our way, and they did. When we went to the bench for overtime, we didn’t even talk about basketball. Then we went out there and played and defended. We had some defensive deficiencies throughout the season, but not in that four minutes. We guarded like a bunch of guys who were determined to win a game.”

Coach Mannix on the team’s senior leadership: “We had two of our three-game playoff run where we found ourselves stuck in a decent-size hole. I think the senior leadership – John Adams ’20 and the postgraduates - with tough, gritty play pulled us out of those holes. That was instrumental in us making our comebacks. There’s something to be said for older players having more experience. Since they’re older there’s a chance they’ve been down 10 points in a tournament game. I don’t know how many people have been down 17 points in a championship game, but I do know Keller Boothby ’20 and Cinque Stephens ’20 went to double overtime last year in their high school championship in Texas. That taught them what it takes to win a championship and I think they brought that here, and that certainly helped us.”

John Adams on winning the Class AA title: “Everyone trusted one another. It ended with an incredible comeback and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and all of the supporters who came out.”